With well-planned collaboration and tremendous volunteer contributions, the UC Irvine Bren Events Center Vaccine Clinic served more than 44,500 people from January through to its final day on June 12.
During the five-month span, the Bren Events Center Vaccine Clinic team administered 76,544 shots and also held two community outreach clinics in Santa Ana and Anaheim.
When UCI Health started to prepare for the launch the clinic on January 16, UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Founding Dean Jan Hirsch accepted the responsibility of finding a lead pharmacist for the Bren Events Center Vaccination Program. That’s when she called on Larry Lovett, who has more than 40 years of administrative and clinical pharmacy experience.”
“We knew Larry was the ideal person to bring into the operation from day one,” Hirsch said. “His involvement included the hiring of part-time pharmacists and technicians while also setting up the dispensing areas. Larry’s leadership and expertise was invaluable to the success of the clinic.”
Lovett will be joining the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences as a part-time faculty member in the fall when UCI enrolls its first Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) cohort.
Another key person in the Bren Events Center Vaccine Clinic was Alex Chan, the Founding Chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice within the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“Alex provided me with valuable administrative support, guidance, and encouragement,” Lovett said. “He recruited and authorized critical School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty support for the program until we could assemble a permanent pharmacy team.”
In the collaboration between UCI Health and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a key leader was Robert Eastin, the director of pharmacy operations at UCI Medical Center.
“Based on their highly successful vaccine clinic at the UCI Medical Center, Rob and his team were instrumental in providing staff and technical assistance,” Lovett said. “We also received tremendous support from Medical Center Ambulatory Clinics under the leadership of Erwin Altamira.”
Together, Eastin and Altamira were among the UCI Health leads in establishing and coordinating the handling of vaccine deliveries, establishing protocols for safe-handling, registering recipients and overseeing the center’s operations.
Director of Experiential Learning Erin Knox played an important role in recruiting volunteer pharmacists to join the effort. Knox also led the effort to recruit more than 30 vaccination certified student pharmacists from UC San Diego and UC San Francisco to serve as volunteer vaccinators on weekends. The student pharmacists were also supervised by UCI pharmacists, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty, and UCI Medical Center pharmacy residents.
The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty and staff contributed more than 400 volunteer hours to the Bren Events Center Vaccine Clinic, but the success of the operation depended on collaboration throughout UCI Health and the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences.
The Anteater EMS Student Volunteers were at every clinic to provide emergency response to patients experiencing adverse episodes following their vaccination.
The UCI Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing sent their faculty and students to weekend clinics. The nursing students were trained to help the pharmacy team pull vaccine doses and to deliver doses to the vaccination tables where nursing students were also administering vaccines.
The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty also organized a training program for medical students in handling syringes and needles. After the training, the medical students were able to help the pharmacy team pull vaccine doses.
“It takes a tremendous, coordinated effort to implement and efficiently run a ‘pop-up’ clinic in a non-medical facility,” Lovett said, “and to consistently receive high praise from the customers receiving the service.”
In addition to the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Bren Events Center, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences also hosted two COVID-19 vaccine webinars, encompassing the scientific basis, clinical trials, delivery and administration issues to educate and reassure the public.
While demand for COVID-19 vaccination has dropped significantly in Orange County and elsewhere, there are currently COVID-19 vaccination programs active at several UCI Health outpatient centers. Plans to offer vaccinations at other UCI Health centers are also under consideration.
At the upcoming American Association of College of Pharmacy annual meeting in July 2021, the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical will also present their experience of helping to lead the Bren Events Center Vaccine Clinic.